Welcome to Saturday Morning Scares, where we check out cartoons for spooky kids! To celebrate October’s Sound of Screams theme here at Nightmare, today’s cartoon is about a monster band. Folks, put your paws together for Groovie Goolies!
Groovie Goolies is a cartoon from the early 1970s that follows pop-rockers The Monster Trio and their friends at Horrible Hall, a rundown old castle where the cool ghouls hang out. Everything at Horrible Hall is scary, from the residents to the plants to the furniture! What kind of horrifying hijinks will these monsters cook up?
Quick word of warning: Groovie Goolies is very much a product of its time. The music, which includes two full-length songs per episode, is all rooted in the crank-it-out bubblegum pop that record labels made for tweens in the late 60s and early 70s. If you don’t like Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes), you’re gonna hate the music of Groovie Goolies. Beyond the sound, the style of the show is unlike the cartoons we have today. Instead of following a narrative story, the structure is more like a variety show. There are skits, but the bulk of the episodes are musical numbers and just a buttload of puns.
All this to say, if you take Groovie Goolies for what it is, you’ll have fun with it!
CAST of SCARE-ACTERS
Drac– He’s the grumpiest dang dracula you’ve ever seen, but he plays a mean organ. His most notable bit is transforming into a bat, flying into the wall, and saying, “This place is driving me batty!”
Wolfie– Equal parts beatnik, surfer, hippie, and lycanthrope, Wolfie is the laid-back guitarist equivalent in The Monster Trio. Everything he says is filtered through so many different layers of slang that he’s basically unintelligible, which I find relatable.
Frankie– It’s Frankenstein, but with an almost unbearably pleasant demeanor. Frankie‘s cool. He talks so slow that I want to shake him, and I’ve lived in the drawling American South my entire life. Frankie‘s recurring gag is to get struck by lightning then say, “I needed that.”
Hagatha– As the head chef of Horrible Hall, Hagatha keeps the monsters (and couches!) fed with recipes from her Monster Cookbook. You could say she runs a Witchy Kitchen of her own!
Bella La Ghostly– In addition to being an amazing roller derby name, Bella La Ghostly is in charge of the phone lines at Horrible Hall. And if you’re asking, “how often do monsters talk on the phone,” the answer is “a lot, apparently.”
Hauntelroy– Who is this little freak?
Boneapart– Not to be confused with the ghosts in 1700s hats or the band of skeletons on this show, Boneapart is a skeleton in a silly hat. He’s also, generally speaking, a total buzzkill.
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Ratso and Batso– These nearly identical ghouls are impish troublemakers. They just wanna have a good time, but to them that means making someone else have a bad time.
Sabrina– Everyone’s favorite Teenage Witch shows up at Horrible Hall to see what the Goolies are getting into. In some lore, it says the Goolies are her cousins. Based on that and Aunt Hilda and Aunt Zelda, Sabrina‘s the platinum blond black sheep of the family.
In addition to the main characters, there were a number of bands that would make guest appearances to perform at Horrible Hall. Let’s see who’s on the bill!
The Monster Trio– Now this is a monster mash! Drac plays the organ, Frankie bashes the drums (and xylophone) with bones, and Wolfie shreds the lyre. In my opinion, this was a misstep. They should’ve given him a guitar cool enough to land on a list of horror guitars.
The Mummies and the Puppies– This psychedelic folk band is half dogs, half reanimated preserved corpses wrapped in bandages. It’s not just a clever name! The best thing about The Mummies and the Puppies is they sometimes use a primitive version of the “death growl” common in extreme metal. That’s not a joke!
The Bare Bones Band– A trio of skeletons in thrift shop attire, this bubblegum pop group loves to party! They also sing the anthem of Super Ghoul, a superhero who looks suspiciously like Frankie.
The Rolling Headstones: These anthropomorphic grave markers sound very similar to The Bare Bones Band, but with the addition of a ton of wah pedal on the guitar. Additionally, they have the most unique instrumentation: there’s a melodica, the singer plays an upright bass, and the drummer whacks the singer with a couple of bones. A graveyard smash!
The Spirit of ’76– These ghosts dress like American colonists, like Paul Revere and the Raiders. Musically, it’s more bubblegum pop, but this time with prominent tuba tracks! It’s a wonder this style didn’t catch on, because who can resist a prominent tuba track?
Normally this is where you’d read about some of the best episodes of the show, but since Groovie Goolies has such a weird format (and to keep with this month’s theme), here are some of the best songs from the show instead:
The Monster Trio– Frightening Frankie, Dangerous Drac, and Weirdo Wolfie. I can’t resist a song where a band tells you all about themselves. Hi, nice to meet you, I’m Weirdo Wolfie.
The Mummies and the Puppies– When I Grow Up. This repetitive track really throws you for a loop when the death growl segment kicks in!
The Bare Bones Band– Super Ghoul. Right, like I’d just ignore a song about a superhero Frankenstein.
The Rolling Headstones– Chick-A-Boom. This song was catchy enough to be rerecorded outside of the show, even reaching Number 2 on the Canadian charts!
The Spirit of ’76– Monsters on Parade. TUBA. TUBA. TUBA.
THEME SONG: Does It SLAP, Or Is It CRAP?
The Groovie Goolies theme is definitely a product of its time, and it’s pretty corny to modern ears. However, it’s Halloween and I’m feeling generous, so I rate it SLAP. Worth noting though, is that like, half the lyrics are about how funny the Goolies are. It’s almost enough to think the singer’s being sarcastic.
Really, the lyrics are like “these are the Goolies, and they’re funny/ laugh at the funny things the funny Goolies do” and then the jokes from the episode are like “what do you call a spider that’s also a pilot? A spider pilot!”
For this month’s NOFS-exclusive Crunch Time cereal pairing, we’re going classic: it’s Count Chocula. Drac is essentially the main character of the group, and sometimes (very rare occasions) you don’t need to overthink cereal. Count Chocula was available for much of the original Groovie Goolies run, and I didn’t want to send you on a wild goose chase during the happiest time of the year. If your grocery store isn’t stocking Count Chocula right now, then hoot and holler until they do. Or, better yet, go to a different store and don’t cause trouble for someone who definitely doesn’t need it.
While Groovie Goolies didn’t last as long as, say, Scooby-Doo, it was successful enough to warrant the characters showing up across the cartooniverse for years. After the show’s original run, the Goolies starred in an hour-long special called Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies. The special has a really strange live-action segment. They then returned the favor to Sabrina by making guest appearances on her show.
The show’s music expanded into the real world, with an album titled Groovie Goolies releasing in 1970. Most of the songs were featured on the show, but the LP featured some new tracks as well. Strangely enough, a French album was released waaaaaay after the show went off the air (over a decade!). The album shared the name of the French version of the cartoon, Les Croque Monstres. For those of you out there who haven’t hit a 100-day Duolingo streak, that’s a play on the classic French sandwich, the croque-monsieur.
When you put it all together, Groovie Goolies is a weird little cartoon, and I appreciate that. While I wouldn’t binge it, it would make good background noise for the Halloween season. Also, prominent ramonescore pop/punk band Groovie Ghoulies got their name from this show, so that makes it a winner in my book.
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